Olympic stadium welcomes pride of Portsmouth

Richard Shuttleworth

Richard Shuttleworth

Lachlan Wellington. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Opening night for the Lakeside 5k Series

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A lap of honour in front of an admiring Olympic stadium crowd will be the goal for Portsmouth’s hottest athletics talents this weekend.

The newly-built arena in Stretford, which will host this summer’s Olympic Games, hosts the British University Athletics Championships over the next four days.

And with Portsmouth’s budding track and field aces providing some of the star turns at this year’s prestigious event, glory at the new London landmark is a real possibility.

Javelin thrower Richard Shuttleworth has the biggest hope of stepping on to the winners’ rostrum.

Currently ranked second in the British under-23 standings and sixth overall, the 19-year-old GB international and Loughborough University student finished second last year when the event was held in Bedford.

But with an impressive 2011 summer season under his belt, and the experience of taking his talents on to the international scene as one of the country’s top juniors, the City of Portsmouth ace is now the one to beat when the javelin competition kicks off on Sunday afternoon.

Before then, however, the area will have other up-and-coming athletes determined to shine under the gaze of the Olympic stadium spotlight.

Well known for their efforts for City of Portsmouth, Jordan Burton, Mo Abdullahi (both University of Portsmouth) and Jessica Shuttleworth (University of Southampton) will be flying the flag.

Meanwhile, Havant’s Corin Reynolds (Chichester) will be keen to continue her impressive recent form in the 800m.

Top City distance runners Cassie Thorp (10,000m) and Jess Chen (5,000m) will also be determined to make the right impression for the sold-out event as they represent University of Portsmouth and Oxford respectively.

And that’s something coach Gerry North believes both are more than capable of.

‘Both should make it to their respective finals and do well,’ said North.

‘Jess will be up against a strong field in the 5,000m but I’ve already looked at the others and she is the 11th fastest on last year’s times.

‘There’s a very good chance she’ll get to the final if she runs well. She has never done the 5,000m before.

‘But Jess has obviously done very well when doing the race on the roads – and it’s an event she wants to do all season.

‘Jess is a very good prospect, is very dedicated and deserves success.

‘On last year’s times, Cassie is ranked fourth in her field.

‘She’s still recovering from the Achilles problem she picked up at the Hampshire Cross-Country Championships in January.

‘She’s not running the same times as last year at the minute as she hasn’t got the races behind her.

‘But she’s still running well and had a good session on Tuesday night.

‘She should make the top six, which would be brilliant.’

Chen will be first to step out in the surroundings of the Olympic stadium when she kick-starts her bid for university glory today (5.56pm).

Thorp doesn’t compete until 6.45pm on Sunday afternoon, by which time Chen will have hopefully ran in the 5,000m final (3.15pm).

It promises to be a nerve-racking experience for all involved.

But North is confident his charges will be up to the test.

‘Cassie is a bit of a novice still, really, but should do well and benefit from the experience,’ he added.

‘Jess, meanwhile, will be able to draw on the experience of top coach Jenny Harris, who helps train her at Oxford.

‘She’ll have taken on a lot of advice and will be up for the challenge.’

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